Weir backs beaten Very Elleegant to hit back in the Oaks
DARREN Weir remains confident easing Oaks favourite Verry Elleegant can still win Thursday's $1 million Group 1 feature despite finishing fifth to the impressive Aristia, who broke her maiden status in the Group 2 Wakeful Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.
In a race where the on-pacers had the edge, Verry Elleegant was trapped out wide and not suited by the slow pace, yet tracked home into the race late and finished less than four lengths off the winner.
Weir, who later won the Victoria Derby with Extra Brut, said the Wakeful hadn't panned out the way his filly needed it to, but confirmed she would push on to the Oaks, where she eased from $2.30 to $3.20.
Off the back of Aristia's strong win, the Mathew Ellerton-Simon Zahra-trained filly firmed from $6 into a $3.60 Oaks second elect.
"She's a hard horse to ride," Weir said of Verry Elleegant. "It was impossible to make up ground."
Her jockey John Allen said on face value his mount had been "a little disappointing, but she jumped out of the gates and switched off a little better today."
"It was a hard race to make any ground, but it's on to the Oaks now."
Very Elleegant ran the last 200m in 11.84, the third fastest of the race.
Aristia, a daughter of Lonhro, had always shown early staying potential, with Zahra saying the owners had been extremely patient in the belief that the further the trip, the better the horse would be.
"We aimed at the Thousand Guineas a long way out, but it looked like in her trackwork she would love a bit more ground" Zahra said.
"We thought we'd see the best of her at 2000m and beyond. We kept her at this level, because we knew she was good enough, and now it onto the Oaks."
He praised Damian Lane's ride on Aristia, describing it as "unbelievable", and saying it would take a good one to knock it off as the best of the Flemington carnival.
Aristia ($6.50) staved off the fast-finishing Qafila ($9) to break through for her first win in her 10th start, with El Dorado Dreaming ($5) back in third place.
Kris Lees said El Dorado Dreaming would not push on to the Oaks, while David Hayes said he would wait to see how Qafila - who firmed from $26 into $5 for Thursday's race - pulled up before locking her into a start.
Hayes said Qafila "was the best finisher and had a really good run"
"We're not sure (about the Oaks), we'll just see how she pulls up," Hayes said.